When I moved to Galveston in 2003, I learned to my amusement that there was a feud of sorts — certainly a rivalry — between residents of the East End and residents of the West End of the island. I stress the word “island” because that’s what this little spit of sandbar is — a barrier island. Its two distinct social/cultural ends — where people on the West won’t go (10-15 miles) “to town” and people on the East have never been past the end of the Seawall — is the stuff of Garrison Keillor’s ”Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” I wonder if he means the East side or the West side of the lake…
But a little less funny, sometimes, is the rivalry, if that’s the word, between the people who were born here (“Born on the Island” or “BOI”) and those who were not. Here’s what that looks like: About six months ago, I asked my BOI friend what he thought about mayoral candidate, Betty Massey. He said he liked her very much and thought she would make a fine mayor. “There’s just one thing,” he said. “She’s not from here.” “She’s been here 30-something years,” I said. “Right,” he said. “She’s not from here.” I wondered if he understood that he had just called me fat.
He’s not an aberration. Yesterday I read someone’s musings in the paper about run-off Council candidate, Sheryl Rozier, speculating that possibly she didn’t get more votes because she wasn’t “Hispanic or BOI.” Aha! BOI is a voting block! See, this is where it stops being so funny.
Those of us who went through Ike, who came back first chance we got, who broke the law to stay on the island, who allowed the National Guard to point guns in our faces as we helped our neighbors, who gave up everything to help rebuild, who climbed through the muck and fetched and carried and stooped and groveled and stepped in front of moving trains, metaphorically speaking, putting it all on the line to make sure this place and its people — all of them — didn’t suffer needlessly when, face it, we could’ve just stayed gone and gotten on with our lives… those of us who went through all that and much too much more to enumerate in this short piece — and especially those who are willing to serve our community (singular) in what can be some pretty thankless positions sometimes — none of us deserve to be rewarded with a glass ceiling of prejudice based on a geographic accident of birth.
And this island deserves better than that, too. If you don’t believe me, try to do it without us.
Copyright © 2010 Alice Melott